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by Jay Seaver

"A fair business plan for light romance."
3 stars

I just spent a few minutes Googling a couple of things from this movie on the off-chance that it's based upon a true story - it's set a few years in the past and has its characters highly visible during real-life events - just in case I found myself saying that something that actually happened was far-fetched. That doesn't seem to be the case, so those are just odd choices in a movie that's otherwise enjoyably lightweight.

Though the title refers to partners, the film initially focuses on Lu "Xiaoxi" Zhen-xi (Yao Chen), who grew up in the southern part of China looking up to a merchant uncle (Lam Suet) driven out of business by more professional competitors. She goes to New York with her boyfriend (Wang Yi-bo) to study business, but is deported after working as a street hawker to pay the bills. She can't afford to actually enroll in the China Asia International Business School back home, but lands a job as the personal assistant to Professor Meng Xiao-jun (Aaron Kwok Fu-sing) and is able to audit his classes. Seeing overlap between one of Xiaoxi's business plans and those of two of her classmates, Meng asks them to work together, although they're not exactly compatible personalities - Gu Qiao-yin (Tiffany Tang Yan) is looking for a rich boyfriend and Wen Qing (Hao Lei) is already an important part of her husband's company (though perhaps becoming less so with a new young thing in the picture). Still, with the help of Xiaoxi's lifelong friend-who-obviously-has-a-thing-for-her Niu Jun-cheng (Jerry Li Chen), they build an e-commerce business built on personal service for women.

Does this film really need Qing and Qiao-yin? So much of the start of the movie is dedicated to relating Xiaoxi's history that when the other two partners are introduced, it's almost too late for them to be considered important parts of the story, and not only does their camaraderie never quite become the heart of the movie, but it takes up just enough air that there's not a whole lot of room for the love triangle between Xiaoxi, Xiao-jun, and Jun-cheng to develop, if that's what it's going to be. They're good characters, and there's probably a pretty good story to be told about how Qing and Qiao-yin see each other and work together, but it doesn't quite work as part of Xiaoxi's story.

It's kind of a messy movie in general; the opening act seems to introduce Xiaoxi twice as it bounces between China and New York, and with how the subtitles switch between "Zhun-xi" and "Xiaoxi", it's almost like the audience is meeting two characters. There's also something a bit off about how "MeiMei Wong" goes from shool project to successful business - I can't remember whether or not anybody actually graduates - and they sort of hit on the things that make a website successful ("let's make sure we've got a decent mobile site!") in an obligatory fashion. Fortunately, "messy" is about as far as it goes - it seldom if ever falters by having the characters do something unbelievably foolish, and the one time that does happen is a believable result of Xiaoxi being young and ambitious.

A likable cast does a lot to smooth over any issues, at least. Yao Chen makes for a spunky heroine, a charming go-getter who still has some of the more selfish, potentially abrasive personality bits that go with that sort of ambition. Tiffany Tang gets a more comedic role, right down to the Bling-O-Vision Qiao-yin uses to scope out the wealth of the men around her, but she makes the part more than just comic relief, the same way Hao Lei doesn't completely go stiff as Wen Qing. Among the guys, Jerry Li Chen makes for a very likable guy-next door who's clearly into Xiaoxi without having to overact to make it obvious, while Aaron Kwok does all right in managing the contradictory impulses of fondness for his student and propriety that sometimes threaten to make Meng an all-purpose plot device.

Like the film itself, the characters often have more energy than direction, which is kind of a funny thing for a movie about people strongly driven to succeed in the business world. It works for this one, at least for the length of time that the audience is watching it and doesn't leave a sour taste later, which isn't a bad business plan itself.

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originally posted: 05/29/16 08:20:32
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Directed by
  Tai-wei Zhang

Written by
  Feng-xiang Yang
  Yeong-ah Yoo
  Shu Chen

  Chen Yao
  Aaron Kwok
  Tiffany Tang
  Jerry Li
  Lei Hao

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